Gravel Days and Party Nights in Butler County, Kansas

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Day Trippin'' started by RacingBlue, May 13, 2021.

  1. RacingBlue

    RacingBlue Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2019
    Oddometer:
    159
    Location:
    Austin, Texas
    This ride report is a bit of a strange one. While the Butler County Gravel Days event occurred over two days, I ended writing 11,000 words detailing both the actual riding and weekend's festivities. If you are only interested in the riding, you'll want to read Parts I, II, and V. If you are at all interested in the events that took place during the non-riding portions, then you'll want to read the entire thing.

    These are the ramblings of a writer/rider (wrider?) who has been cooped up for too long. You have been warned.


    Prologue:


    It’s been ten months since I finished the Trans America Trail. Unfortunately, that was the last bit of meaningful riding I did in 2020. While I took the WR250r out a few times locally, I never did anything that I felt was worthy of a ride report. I pondered doing a “Riding in the Northeast” journal, a collection of experiences and essays akin to Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac, but that dream died when I shot the first ride in 4K and then couldn’t upload any of the pictures anywhere. While the riding has been poor, I have managed to keep myself busy by becoming a substitute teacher at a middle school. I make good money, and it’s been a good stopover while I waited for a more permanent job. And while I do find the work rewarding, being stuck inside a stuffy building for months on end with raucous preteens will do wonders to the psyche of an inexperienced teacher. I had to get out, I had to get back on the road again.

    So, we begin as all great motorcycle trips do: packing up my gear, driving to the airport, and boarding a plane bound for Wichita.

    [​IMG]

    Wait…what?

    Ok, maybe I need to provide a little more context.

    In February, I got this text from @overlander:

    “Mark your calendars now for May 1st and 2nd to attend the first ever Butler County Gravel Days dual sport event. Don’t miss it! I’ve got a bike you can ride if you fly in.”

    If you read my TAT ride report, you’ll remember how my busted radiator introduced us, leading to a celebratory dinner in Port Orford and a new friendship. When that text came across my desk, I was certainly intrigued and immediately wanted to go. The only downside was that I had no idea if I was actually going to be free on May 1st and 2nd. At that point in time, I had sent out close to a million job applications in hopes that someone would be desperate enough to hire me. Most of these applications fell on deaf ears, but a few had the courtesy to let me know that I wasn’t getting hired. But I was still holding out hope I would have gainful employment by then. I told Overlander, aka Lee, that I would be thrilled to come down, but that I wouldn’t know if I was able to until later.

    In March, I sort of got a job. I say “sort of” because I got hired for a position that still hasn’t opened yet. It’s the perfect scenario, really. There is none of the stress of the job hunt while having oodles of free time. The reps who hired me said that at the earliest, I wouldn’t be starting until late May, and if they did reach out when I was off traveling somewhere, they would wait. Perfect! I let Lee know that I would be coming and immediately booked a ticket to Wichita.

    My flight wasn’t exactly smooth. It had three stops, and not one time was I allowed to get off the plane. So instead of my normal layover routine of finding the nearest Chick-Fil-A and gorging myself on nuggets, I was forced to learn the terrible truth about just how well they clean airliners between flights.

    Flight #1 from Providence to Baltimore was the roughest flight I’ve been on in years. We had to have been lower than 5000ft when the turbulence started to set in. The woman to the right of me was terrified, holding her hand to her chest seemingly ever time I turned my head. Her daughter, however, was unphased, just calmly looking out the window as the plane bounced around. The man to the right of me was asleep and completely limp, his poor head rolling around with the airplane. Baltimore to St. Louis was a little better, but it too was plagued by turbulence.

    The last flight, St. Louis to Wichita, was also the easiest. The sun was beginning to slip below the horizon as I departed for the last time. While I technically have been to Kansas (I stopped in Elgin, Liberal, and Elkhart last summer), I didn’t know too much about the terrain besides the reputation of flatness. I refused to look up any pictures of the eastern countryside as I wanted my impressions to not be hampered by lofty expectations.

    The first thing that caught my eye was a plume of what looked to be dust. It wasn’t until I saw a second, larger, plume that I realized these were both (hopefully) controlled burns. My eyes began to dart around. I saw El Dorado Lake shimmering in the dying light. Gullies and flatlands crisscrossed the acreage. Lines of trees formed perfect, sunken squares of fields. I wish I could have taken a picture, but alas I was on the aisle seat. Curse these long legs of mine.

    As I approached Wichita, I began to see signs of civilization. The groupings of buildings began to get larger and larger until they formed the city. I landed a little before 8:00 pm and disembarked to a nearly empty airport.

    [​IMG]

    The only thing I really knew about Wichita was that Wichita St. University was there. A few years ago, I picked them to go all the way in the NCAA Tournament. They lost to Kentucky in the round of 32, but for some reason I became a fan. I still root for them today, after my Longhorns of course.

    [​IMG]

    That being said, I still don’t really know what this Wheatnado thing is supposed to be.

    I picked up my gear from the baggage carousel and met my ride outside. Lee could not make it to the airport and instead sent a friend of his, B, to retrieve me. It wasn’t long until my luggage was loaded in his car and we were on the road, heading east as the last bit of the Sun began to say goodnight. Our destination was Sugar Shane’s Café in Augusta, Kansas and the plan was to meet with the group there. Lee gave us a call to let us know that he arrived and would order for us. I put in for a Southwest Burger, though to be honest I would have eaten anything that was put in front of me. I was running off airplane snacks and that morning’s breakfast.

    We arrived at the restaurant; a beach-chic establishment nestled in the brick downtown of Augusta. The waiter led us to the outside dining area where we united with the rest of the group. I greeted Lee and then exchanged pleasantries with new faces. I learned I wasn’t the only Kansas newcomer, a man named Eric had arrived from Georgia a few hours before I did. Over dinner, I learned that Eric had never actually ridden a bike off road, but he did have years of street experience. I told him that I would be taking this weekend slow to shoot some pictures for this ride report and that I would be more than welcome to keep him company.

    [​IMG]

    Dinner was delicious. My burger came with sweet potato fries and I chose to wash it down with some good ol' sweet tea. My hunger prompted me to inhale the meal, resulting in a stomachache that lasted well into the night.

    After dinner, B drove me over to Lee’s house, where Eric and a few others would be spending the night. On the way, B took me down a road that he apparently had seen a cougar on a few weeks ago. I had no idea that cougars were ever in Kansas. He also informed me about an enormous coyote that had become somewhat of a local celebrity. I told my story of encountering a wolf/coyote hybrid in Vermont, and we wondered if his version was a hybrid as well.

    [​IMG]

    Someone had passed down this dirt road a few minutes before us and kicked up a fog. I silently pondered tomorrow’s visibility and wondered if I should be concerned for Eric.

    We arrived at Lee’s house first and hung out on the front step until they arrived. Lee showed up, brought us inside, and got everyone's sleeping arrangements situated. The last portion of the night was spent in the living room, where we told stories of racing, travels, and our own personal histories. Around midnight, everyone turned in. I changed into my pajamas, unfurled my sleeping bag, and hunkered down on my cot, hoping that my excitement wouldn’t overpower my desire for shuteye.
    #1
    Ks-Rydr and SwampyDeadHead like this.
  2. RacingBlue

    RacingBlue Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2019
    Oddometer:
    159
    Location:
    Austin, Texas
    Part I: Me, Bobby McGee, and the AJP

    Do you know what an AJP is? Probably not, I certainly didn’t. A random person off the street might guess that it’s some arm of bureaucracy. The average ADVRider user can reasonably assume it is, at the very least, motorcycle related. AJP is a boutique, Portuguese motorcycle manufacturer specializing in dual sports. They have four models out currently. The PR7 is the largest displacement they offer, and it would serve as my trusty steed in the Flint Hills.

    [​IMG]

    When Lee told me that this gorgeous machine would be my bike, I was a bit nervous. Boutique bikes, whether it be something as rare as an AJP or as common as a Ducati, have a bit of a reputation for being…quirky. Whereas my WR250r is easy to please, boutique bikes need to be wined and dined or else they’ll get very grumpy. Another stressor came in its rarity. If I did end up breaking this thing, the nearest AJP dealer wasn't exactly down the street. Finally, this would be the largest bike I have ever ridden off-road. I’ve ridden lots of big bikes on the street, but a 650 on dirt was a bit intimidating, even for someone with my level of experience. The only 650 dual sport I sat on was last year in Colorado, when a friend let me sit on his. The weight of that bike is what I had pictured in my mind. At least we didn’t have to pack the bikes and haul our gear out, it would be taken out there in one of the event’s support vehicles.

    If you’re wondering what Eric’s bike was, he was given a KTM 350. It was great choice for him. It had aggressive dirt tires, good brakes, good power, and a huge aftermarket tank bolted on. The only downside was its lack of kickstand. Sure, that seems like a minor annoyance, but what I gleaned from my view on the plane was there weren’t many trees, or anything for that matter, to lean the bike up against. It would make for some entertaining pit stops.

    That morning we woke at 8:00 am and quickly got our gear on. The start of the rally was at the Twisted Oz Motorcycle Museum over in Augusta. There would be a rider’s meeting at 9:00 am, as well as a sign in. While Lee told us not to worry about showing up on the dot, I figured we should shoot for arriving early. It would give us time to get situated as well as peruse the museum’s collection.

    Eric and I got our bikes started, which was admittedly a process. First I dropped a glove, then I wanted to take my glasses, and finally my earbud fell out of my helmet. The rest of our convoy was sitting on the shoulder of the road, watching this scene unfold. When everything was in order, we hit the road. It was a ten-minute drive from Lee’s house to the motorcycle museum. The route consisted only of straight county roads, the perfect spot to test out the AJP’s acceleration.

    My goodness did that bike fly. Sure, it wasn’t my MT-09, but the AJP shot out of a cannon. While the top end wasn’t anything to write home about, it sure got there quickly. The ride was smooth, the suspension felt good, and it seemed to be comfortable. I was excited to take it on the dirt.

    Now, I was following Google maps. I had seen the museum last night driving in, but that didn’t mean I knew how to get there. At some point, the group deviated from the route that maps had laid out for me. Eric and I continued ahead, turning off 7th Street onto Walnut. Google told us that the next turn would be a right hander in a few hundred feet. Those hundred feet came and went with no turn. So, I turned around, figuring I must have missed the turn. It was a tad embarrassing, I was supposed to be the “leader” with a “TAT worthy sense of direction”, yet I was being bullied by Google Maps in town. I would have missed the turn again if I hadn’t seen a grass partition going in the direction of the museum. I pulled off, and Google told me I was going the correct way. This grass strip was apparently our route in. Eric and I pondered doubling back and following the others, but we decided that we would let these off-road bikes do their thing. You can see the route we took in below:

    [​IMG]

    The “road” was nothing more than annoyance. There was no technical section to get the blood pumping, just a grass strip that put us right into the parking lot of the museum. We parked our bikes and laughed at our little adventure. The staff members began to holler out to the crowd, directing them inside for the riders meeting. Eric and I shed our excess gear and followed the crowd inside.

    Out of respect to the museum, I will not be posting all but two pictures I took while inside. This museum runs purely off donations and a collection of this size and variety deserves to be visited. If you are in Augusta, take the time to check it out. To give a taste of the kind of bikes that are in there, I’ll post one of my favorites:

    [​IMG]

    Some of my other favorites included some of the old dirt trackers from the 1920s and 1930s. We think that guys like Travis Pastrana and Valentino Rossi are brave for what they do, and they are, but the pure insanity that guys like Herb Ottaway endured is in a league of its own. Their race bikes had no brakes, they merely killed the engine while turning and then bump started on a straightaway. I’m brave, but I’m not that brave.

    Inside the main building, Lee propped himself up on a ladder and began to lead the meeting. He told us about each of the different routes to the campground; there was a direct route, an intermediate route, and a 150-mile adventure route. I shot a smile in Eric’s direction while Lee discussed the last one. That was the one we were going to tackle. Lee continued the meeting, highlighting the distances people travelled to get to the meeting. He mentioned Rhode Island and Georgia, and Eric and I felt special. We were subsequently humbled when it was pointed out that there was a Belgian and a Croatian in the room. Most importantly, Lee told us about the charity we were raising money for: The Forgotten 22. F22 is a nonprofit supporting the mental health of military veterans. Scott, the founder, was present at the meeting and would join us at camp. The charity is new, only starting in 2019, but they are already doing great work. As this issue is one that is close to my heart, I implore you to check them out and consider donating to the cause.

    [​IMG]

    Scott gave a quick speech on the charity, before giving the floor back to Lee. Lee told us to look out for wildlife such as elk, bison, deer, and mountain lions. I was itching to get out on the trail. When the meeting adjourned, I made sure that my maps were loaded onto OsmAnd, and then went to go check in. Eric and I linked up with a group of some of the guys we had dinner with the night before, and we decided to ride together in a larger group. We decided that kickstands up would be in twenty minutes, giving everyone enough time to check out the museum.

    Those twenty minutes went by in a flash and soon we found ourselves filling up our bikes at the neighboring gas station. I grabbed some extra water and an emergency ration of beef jerky in the convenience store before saddling up. Once everyone was ready to go, we fired up our machines, and hit the road.

    [​IMG]

    I am no stranger to group rides, but this was my first one off road. I was a bit worried about the dust situation. I inhaled a few acres crossing Oklahoma last year, and I wasn’t keen on repeating that feat.

    The first few miles were exclusively on tarmac, highlighted by a half mile of gentle curves. My first impression on the AJP’s handling was still holding up. I managed to get a half decent lean angle going and the bike felt surprisingly light while in motion. It certainly didn’t give off that apperance when I first saw it.

    [​IMG]

    Finally, we turned off the main road and hit the first dirt of the day.

    [​IMG]

    We spread out in a staggered, single file line to minimize the impact of the dust, and our caravan trekked due East. The Kansas dirt reminded me a lot of the stuff I encountered in central Oklahoma; well groomed dirt roads with a few rocks scattered on the track. While technical riding is fun, I was content with an easy-going weekend of cruising.

    [​IMG]

    Eric was the caboose of our little convoy, and I made sure to check my mirror about once every minute to make sure he wasn’t that far behind. I had been told that as long as I could account for his headlight, I was following proper riding decorum. The tricky part was making sure I didn’t let the group leaders get too far out in front. I was either ripping it to catch up or coasting to wait up. It certainly wasn’t good for my gas mileage. About ten or so miles into the dirt, we crossed over the Walnut River. Just before the bridge crossing, there is quite a sharp turn. I’ll happily go on record and say that I did not go through it smoothly. While I was on the bridge, I looked in my rearview mirror and caught a glimpse of Eric sliding down. The GoPro managed to pick up the accident reflecting in the mirror. It’s not a great look, but if you squint into the spot I circled, you can almost make it out.

    [​IMG]

    I pulled over on the bridge, letting the leaders go ahead, before running back to Eric to make sure he was ok. He was unphased, mostly unhurt (he’d later develop a huge bruise) and explained that the bike bit in the corner and he slid out. We made sure the bike was in good order before noticing that the rest of our group had returned. We explained what happened, and then I told them that they should probably just go on ahead, as I would be stopping a lot to take pictures for the ride report. They understood and we parted ways, looking forward to a reunion at camp.

    [​IMG]

    After snagging that shot, Eric and I saddled up before continuing. Five minutes later, we saw our former group parked in front of a road closed sign.

    [​IMG]

    The bridge that went over Little Walnut River was no longer safe for vehicle travel. It was safe to walk on, which I took full advantage of.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    This bridge can be found in a settlement called Bois d’Arc. Once upon a time it was a little village, complete with a general store.

    [​IMG]

    The village has since been reclaimed by nature, and the only residents now appear to be one family and their dog.

    Like Oklahoma, Kansas is in a grid system, and rerouting is easy. While it is annoying to be rerouted, I'm not complaining about extra riding.

    [​IMG]

    We set off again. The lead group distanced themselves and Eric and I became stuck in a Kansas traffic jam.

    [​IMG]

    The driver noticed us and pulled over, not before getting a nice dusting. It wasn’t long after we cleared the traffic jam that we encountered our first oddity of the day. We passed a cyclist, powering away on the dirt roads. Nothing too unusual, cycling is a great way to get exercise.

    [​IMG]

    Then we passed another, and another, and another. We had accidentally found ourselves in a race! We carefully navigated our way through the horde of spandex, not wanting to kick up and dust or rocks. When we cleared the pod, we sped off. Oddity #2 came soon after.

    [​IMG]

    Even looking at it on Google Maps, I can’t tell what this fake waterfall empties into. It’s either a pool or a manmade pond. Either way, I wasn’t expecting a giant water feature in the middle of the Kansas grasslands.

    Eric and I continued our journey to El Dorado. Twenty miles outside the city limits, we encountered the only difficult riding of the day. The road started out innocent enough.

    [​IMG]

    It quickly devolved into Rut Hell.

    [​IMG]

    These ruts, or should I say ditches, were easily eight or nine inches deep in sections. I managed to tiptoe between them, but my unfamiliarity with the AJP’s weight forced a mistake and I found myself trench running. Eric and I stopped to take a quick breather.

    [​IMG]

    Eric was handling the ruts very well, though he had to walk the bike through the tougher section. The person handling it the worst was the family that passed us in an enormous pickup truck. Between their 1 MPH pace and the zig zagging across the road, I wondered if this was going to be an all-day affair for them. A quarter mile or so from our pit stop was our escape from the Ninth Circle, and we rejoiced at the sight of smooth dirt.

    OsmAnd rerouted us through the Whitewater Falls Stock Farm. This is where that bicycle race was being staged from.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I love a good barn.

    Behind the barn, the road took a dip and I could tell that there was a low water crossing. I pulled Eric aside and gave him a detailed rundown on how to handle this obstacle. My teaching skills were finally coming to good use! We slunk down the road, excited to get our feet wet for the first time today.

    [​IMG]

    I should have known. I hadn't seen a puddle all day, why would the river be swolen?

    The road after the “crossing” was a straight shot into El Dorado. The scenery was beginning to clear out.

    [​IMG]

    As we got closer to El Dorado, the tilled fields gave way to pastures.

    [​IMG]

    Right before we rejoined tarmac, we saw someone sporting a fierce mullet. He gave us a cool guy wave and I immediately wished I too could sport such a glorious hairstyle.

    Eric and I decided on Subway for lunch, as it was the lightest choice. I opted for the Italian six-inch and big cup of vitamin water. When I ordered my cheese, the guy behind the counter asked, “do you want to taste it?”

    “No, I trust you,” I replied.

    Eric began to chuckle behind me. “Are you sure?” the guy asked again.

    “Of course!” I replied. Eric was laughing harder.

    “Suit yourself,” the guy said, moving my sandwich away from the toaster.

    It dawned on me that he didn’t asked if I wanted a taste, he was asking if I wanted to toast. I got beet red, then stammered out “please toast my sandwich.” I guess I need to invest in some better earplugs.

    Eric and I talked over lunch, mostly about how sore we were. We each took two Ibuprofen and then planned out the next bit of the day. We would follow the route from El Dorado to whatever “Teter Rock” was, get gas in Eureka, then meander into camp. As I ate my lunch, I began to wonder what other kind of curveballs Kansas would throw at us. As long as it wasn't a rut repeat, I think we'd both have been ok with it.

    Writer's Memo: The rest of the RR should come out tomorrow. It's already written, I just need to edit and add the pictures. When it's finished, I'll erase this footer.
    #2
  3. DCTFAN

    DCTFAN 2019 CRF1000LD Supporter

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2016
    Oddometer:
    2,308
    Location:
    GA
    Good to see your posts again.
    Did I tell you I went by the Oak Barrell Cafe by chance and had the Reuben s/w you recommended?
    It was very good as you said!
    +++++++++++----------------
    [edit]
    https://advrider.com/f/threads/trans-america-2020-on-a-yamaha-wr250r.1453367/#post-40328871
    It was a Cheese Steak, lol
    But like everything, I am glad to have read your TAT RR. Really enjoyed reading it as much as the sandwich.
    #3
    RacingBlue and overlander like this.
  4. overlander

    overlander Gravel Travel Tours Supporter

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2003
    Oddometer:
    1,237
    Location:
    Wicheetaw, KS but longing for Texas
    Really enjoyed having you guys come in to ride the flinthills with us! We MUST do this again!
    #4
    RacingBlue likes this.
  5. RacingBlue

    RacingBlue Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2019
    Oddometer:
    159
    Location:
    Austin, Texas
    Glad to hear you enjoyed it, and happy to see you again!! That restaurant is a hidden gem.
    #5
    DCTFAN likes this.
  6. RacingBlue

    RacingBlue Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2019
    Oddometer:
    159
    Location:
    Austin, Texas
    You already know I'll be there.
    #6
  7. RacingBlue

    RacingBlue Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2019
    Oddometer:
    159
    Location:
    Austin, Texas
    Part II: Teter-Tots

    After finishing lunch and washing the dust off our faces, Eric and I returned to our bikes. I changed the batteries in my GoPro and then saddled up for the next part of the journey. Our first goal was to reach Cassoday, a small town northeast of El Dorado. While there wasn’t any reason to stop within the city limits, this was the last town we would pass through before a 34-mile jaunt through the backcountry.

    We left El Dorado, riding Highway 77 south before turning back onto the dirt. This second section lacked the dramatics of the first. The only real difficulties we had were the constant changes in road surface. It alternated between the smooth dirt and a gravel heavy, but even then I found no reason to complain. The AJP was handling everything Kansas pitched with ease. It would glide through gravel and bounce its way across divots and grooves. There was no problem that couldn’t be solved with a gentle twist of the throttle. I was beginning to grow comfortable with it. I found myself taking corners faster, kicking out the tail ever so slightly. I couldn’t let myself get too carried away, I was the one with the maps and abandoning Eric would be shameful.

    The lack of drama was balanced out by the change of scenery. We found ourselves in a tunnel of trees.

    [​IMG]

    Take a close look at the branches, the GoPro did a good job of picking up the slight lean to the left. Up until that point, I hadn’t really felt the winds. The trees that lined the fields and roads were valiantly taking the brunt of the force. I had a feeling that luxury would soon end.

    The ripples land we had been riding soon turned into small waves.

    [​IMG]

    The trees vanished, replaced by telephone lines that seemed to go on to Infinity.

    [​IMG]

    It only got emptier as we went on.

    [​IMG]

    Eric and I turned north onto NE Flinthills Road. A straight line of tarmac, it was the perfect place to let the bikes roar.

    [​IMG]

    The tarmac too faded away, delivering Eric and I back to the clutches of the dirt. Golden fields enveloped us.

    [​IMG]

    Horses galloped through the grass alongside us. Truly a picturesque moment, that the GoPro failed to capture well. Whatever image you conjure up with your imagination is surely better than the actual still frame.

    As we continued north, I saw a spec where the road met the horizon. It was a tall spec; I could tell that it was in motion. I wondered if it was another motorcycle. The group we started with had to have been out here somewhere. As we got closer, it materialized into man running.

    [​IMG]

    Nothing too unusual, running is a great way to get exercise. Running this far into nowhere is a bit brave, God forbid you get hurt or succumb to the heat. We gave the man ample space as we passed by. On the horizon I saw another spec. As we got closer, we saw it was another person running. Then another person, and another. We were in the middle of another race, or maybe it was the original race, I really don’t know. There was a noticeable lack of spandex.

    A bright blue tower peeked through a cluster of trees. Eric and I pulled over and deduced through careful analysis (i.e., looked at the map) that the tower was part of Cassoday.

    [​IMG]

    A quarter mile down the dirt, we rejoined tarmac. To our dismay, there was a road closure sign. Wondering if it was for the race, we figured maybe the organizers would give us permission to ride through it. Worst case scenario, we just play dumb and turn around. Plus, there had to be a way through Cassoday that went around the main road closure. It was a town after all, it had other roads.

    [​IMG]

    We made our way through the backstreets of Cassoday, and as it turns out there was no way through. The reason for the closure came from construction on the town’s railroad crossings.

    [​IMG]

    We begrudgingly turned around, and on our way out of town we were greeted by another group of dual sport riders. They had to be from Gravel Days, so I waved for them to turn around and follow us. The dynamic duo was now a magnificent seven. The Slowdive song coming from my headphones was being drowned out by the rendition of Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” coming from my brain.

    [​IMG]

    The detour into Cassoday ironically went over a railroad crossing. We rode into town triumphantly, before encountering a split in the roadway. Eric and I went right, following the GPS tracks that had been provided The other group went left, heading north out of town. And then there were two...again. Eric and I wondered if that group was just a different collection of dual sport riders on some other journey.

    [​IMG]

    There was a sign near the entrance of Cassoday that read “Now Entering the Flint Hills Scenic Byway.” I was getting giddy. Up to that point I had heard nothing but praise for the Flint Hills, and we were about to cross them. Eric and I motored out of town, riding a smooth gravel road towards our next stop: Teter Rock.

    [​IMG]

    The absence of trees reminded me of the Tallgrass Prairie and the Osage Nation in Oklahoma.

    [​IMG]

    I recalled the rolling hills out there as I began to formulate a picture of what I thought the Flint Hills would look like. As I crested the first hill, I got my answer. The rolling waves had turned into great green swells. Eric and I rode down a hill, reaching the trough before climbing up to the next crest. The swells became taller and the troughs became lower. If riding here with speed was akin to a rollercoaster, Eric and I were at Six Flags.

    [​IMG]

    Even after ten miles, we were still having a blast. We only slowed down when we saw this:

    [​IMG]

    We turned off the main road and crawled the bikes up a hill on a rough driveway. When we reached the top, we had an amazing panorama. We had to stop and take pictures.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    With our glamour shoot over, we pointed our tires at Teter Rock and made our way over. I parked my bike and Eric found a fence to lean on. We had to be careful to put the bikes in a solid spot, as the wind was blowing at full force.

    [​IMG]

    Behold...Teter Rock!

    [​IMG]

    This landmark left me confused. “Where did this rock come from? Is it manmade? It has to be manmade!” Eric had no answers to my questions, he was just as confused as I was. The bewilderment wasn't enough to stop another photoshoot.

    [​IMG]

    It turns out that Teter Rock is a manmade structure, and this isn’t the original. In the 1880s, a man named James Teter owned the land. He piled up a bunch of rocks on this hill as a travel marker for incoming homesteaders. The stones from that pile of rocks were eventually turned into houses that constituted “Teterville”. Oil was discovered not long after, and Teterville experienced a bit of a boom. When the oil went away, so did the town, leaving only the foundations.

    [​IMG]

    In 1954, the rock you see in the picture was erected as a memorial for Mr. Teter himself. While doing research after the fact, I learned that it is not uncommon to see cattle and wild horses at the rock. At camp, we were shown pictures of a Ford Model A club that had made their way to monument as part of a rally. When Eric and I were there, the only living things we saw were distant herds of cattle.

    [​IMG]

    In fact, the only sign of life up here was this little spot where someone had a fire. It didn’t seem big enough to be a campfire. I wonder what it was for?

    [​IMG]

    After spending a good twenty minutes at the rock, Eric and I saddled back up and headed for Eureka. We left Teterville, went down a huge hill, and then missed our turn after I blasted through it absent mindedly. I spun us back around and we headed off into the wild green yonder.

    [​IMG]

    It was about twenty miles to Eureka in the most remote place yet. Even out here, we stumbled across some gorgeous ranch houses. These weren’t like the houses I encountered in the hills of West Virginia, where they had been beautiful once upon a time but weathered now. These houses were well maintained, if you dropped them outside of a city like Austin or Nashville, they would go for well into the seven figures. There was a charm to them. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t imagine a life at one of these ranch houses. A big yard with a wife, kids, and some pets. Fields to play around in on my dirt bikes, sipping iced tea as the sun sets, and looking up at the Milky Way each night before bed. There’s something to this way of life, and one day I hope I can get my own slice.

    Eric and I cruised at a comfortable pace. We passed the odd church and graveyard. We even drove past a checkpoint for one of the races we interfered with. Regrettably, the GoPro was off for both.

    The road seemed to be nestled in valley. We were hugging the right edge while the hills continued further eastward.

    [​IMG]

    The road began to twist and turn. At first, it was only a few wiggles, that quickly changed to some genuinely sharp corners.

    [​IMG]

    A guy came flying around this very corner and nearly ran Eric into a ditch. I motioned for the eratic driver to slow down but he only waved back, thinking I was being pleasant. We stopped one last time outside of Eureka to get a quick picture of this abandoned structure.

    [​IMG]

    Our first encounter after leaving the untamed backcountry was a manicured golf course. A few folks were enjoying the green, so we kept our engines down as to not mess up their shot.

    [​IMG]

    Our mission in Eureka was to fill up on gas before heading into camp, but it wasn't going to be easy. We ran into our old friend construction and had to detour through the downtown.

    [​IMG]

    They have worms, though!

    The detour allowed us to take a quick peak at downtown Eureka, which had a cute main street.

    [​IMG]

    We filled up on gas and took a quick stretch before hitting the road.

    Before I get into the last section, I want to adress to the audience.

    I trust the ADVRider community. Every one of you I have encountered in the wild has been good people, but I still feel the need to say this. The campground we are heading to is not a public campground. You may be able to deduce where/what it is from the pictures I took, but that is not an invitation to go there. It is private property, there are cameras, and at best trespassers will be prosecuted. DO NOT RECREATE THIS SECTION OF THE RIDE REPORT. If you like what you see and really want to go, then come out to the next Butler County Gravel Days event. You’ve been warned!

    Eric and I left Eureka on the highway. The wind was ferocious, blowing both of us into a lean angle. I dared not to look behind me and confirm, in fear that I would crash.

    [​IMG]

    We eventually turned off the highway, our backs now to the wind. The road into camp was narrow, windy, and a lot more coarse than previous drives. The cover of dirt that we enjoyed was now gone, leaving exposed rock and a scattered gravel. We had to be careful. The last thing either of us wanted was to crash the bikes with only a few miles to go.

    [​IMG]

    This stretch gave us everything it had. It even threw in the water crossing I had promised Eric a few hours earlier.

    [​IMG]

    The scenery was spectacular. The Sun was beginning to tire out as it made made the slow march west. A smattering of clouds moved in overhead, and the grass was a vibrant green color.

    [​IMG]

    I learned that this rich color is the result of range burning. Those plumes I had seen flying in were the paintbrushes for this gorgeous canvas.

    [​IMG]

    Two miles out from our arrival, I pulled over and pointed on the horizon. Eric leaned in and I told him I could see a building belonging to what I hoped was camp. I went to take a picture, but my phone’s camera was all shaky. I shrugged my shoulders and thought nothing of it. I put my phone back on the mount and we got rolling.

    Just before we got into camp, the clutch lever on the AJP started to get a little squishy. Fearing that I had shredded another clutch cable (see: Day 31 of the TAT), I became increasingly worried. We turned onto the main driveway and slowly made our way down a hill. There was a collection of buildings just below us, but we couldn’t see any movement. I sure hoped we were in the right place.

    [​IMG]

    Yep, we were definitely in the right place.

    [​IMG]
    #7
    Ks-Rydr, overlander and dano619 like this.
  8. pmitsch

    pmitsch n00b

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2021
    Oddometer:
    1
    Location:
    Augusta Ks
    Great narrative and documentation! So nice meeting you and I hope to cross paths in the future! You have friends in Augusta and a place to crash at the MotoHaus anytime.
    #8
    RacingBlue and overlander like this.
  9. RacingBlue

    RacingBlue Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2019
    Oddometer:
    159
    Location:
    Austin, Texas
    Thank you so much! It was nice to meet you too. I have a feeling I'll be back up sooner rather than later.
    #9
  10. RacingBlue

    RacingBlue Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2019
    Oddometer:
    159
    Location:
    Austin, Texas
    Part III: Monster Hunting and Other Campground Shenanigans

    The first order of business was to reconnect with our friends and let them know we had made it. Once that was accomplished. We parked at the main building of camp and shed our gear. We parked on the front step, and small crowd gathered to talk about the ride. I fielded many questions about the AJP as I rehydrated. I gave my honest opinions on it, which were positive, but admitted I was worried about the clutch cable. Eric and I inquired if our stuff had arrived from Lee’s house yet. It hadn’t, but I was assured that it would arrive before it became a need.

    I examined my phone’s camera. I pointed it at a nearby building and tapped the screen to focus the lens. It started to quiver. I took a picture, and you can see the result below.

    [​IMG]

    Funny enough, it only shook when you focused it. Here is an unfocused picture:

    [​IMG]

    The property was originally a summer camp, but once the kids left most of the buildings fell into disrepare. While Eric and I were talking with one of our friends from the original group, he told us to check out the buildings scattered about. He said it was creepy, especially the basement of the main hall. Loving the idea of some good old fashioned urban exploration, Eric and I shed as much of our gear as possible and set out around the camp.

    I don’t know what these buildings were officially called, so bear with me. This is the main hall.

    [​IMG]

    It’s where all the night's festivities would occur; including dinner, raffles, and music. Out of all the buildings that we saw, the main hall was easily in the best shape. The actual hall portion was clean and had working electricity. It was seeing fairly regular use. On the other hand, the basement was not in use. It was where some abandoned bathrooms were, as well as a room full of murals painted by kids. While I'm sure the kids had a lot of fun painting them in the past, they were creeping out those in the present.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The abandoned bathrooms were an abomination. The floor was soaked with water and for some reason I peered into one of the stalls. My eyes were greeted by unspeakable horrors.

    If you are wondering what the actual bathroom situation was at camp, rest assured that clean and fuctioning facilities were provided.

    Narrowly escaping the bathrooms, we sauntered over to the next building; a two-story stone building that looked like at one point it could have been a house. I’m not sure what its function was for the camp.

    [​IMG]

    The ground floor was full of old appliances, including a telephone.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The upstairs was nothing but rat poop and old furniture. Eric and I joked how this place would be the perfect place to film a horror movie.

    [​IMG]

    After scraping our boots on the stone outside, we walked back over to the main hall. Lee appeared and told us to go to the back area of the property. There we would find a huge barn with a toy hauler in it. That toy hauler was where Eric and I would be sleeping. I told Lee about the issues with the AJP’s clutch, and he told me that the clutch is hydraulic and that something (probably my hand) might have hit the nozzle and cause the pressure to drop. To play it safe, we elected to park the bike and flush the system in the morning. Eric and I gingerly drove the bikes over to the barn. We dumped our backpacks, jackets, and other extraneous things inside. Eric cranked up the AC so that we would be nice and cool at night.

    We still had a lot of property to explore. At this point, a lot more people had shown up. There were a few kids riding around on ATVs as well as some side by sides heading out into the pasture to have some fun. Eric said we should just ride two-up on the KTM, so we didn’t have to walk. The KTM is a great bike, but it isn't exactly suited for the passanger. It's lack of pegs and rear seat make it downright uncomfortable for the unfortunate soul on the back. The weight on the suspension would make for a difficult ride. Eric bravely volunteered to take the back.

    Through conversation, we picked up that cell service is pretty much non-existent on the entire property, except for a spot up on a hill by a water tower. The signal up there was apparently strong LTE. We decided to go up there first. Halfway up the drive to the water tower, there was a small building tucked away at the edge of the forest. As we arrived, we saw two fellow campers walking into the building. We leaned the KTM up against a wall and followed them in. When I opened the door, one of them went “Boo!” and scared us. I jumped back and started laughing. “I knew you were going to do that, and you still scared me!”

    The four of us explored the small building. One of the guys flipped a light switch and all of the remaining bulbs illuminated. Amazed that there was a running line to this place, we quickly found a phone attached to the wall and tried to see if that worked too. It didn’t. Eric joked as he put it to his ear, “The ghost said ‘get out while you still can’”.

    [​IMG]

    In the forest below, there was a set of cabins nestled against the creek. These weren’t the only sets of cabins we saw, just the only ones we explored.

    [​IMG]

    The cabin on the right-hand side of the picture was the first one that we went into. While it was dark, we could see a huge nest on the floor. One of the guys with us was an animal control officer, go figure, and took the lead to check it out.

    [​IMG]

    “The floor is covered in rat poop and this looks like a pack rat’s nest. I'm thinking this is a pack rat” was his conclusion. “It's one hell of a pack rat though, Probably as big as a small dog!”

    I couldn’t really tell if he was joking. We vacated the cabin in hopes that “Rat Boy” didn’t show up all ticked off that we were in his space. Farther up a hill, on the edge of the forest, was an old storm shelter. I tugged my weight up the wire railing, hoping it didn’t give way after all these years. The storm shelter, like the Main Hall, had a set of murals adorning the walls.

    [​IMG]

    I wish I got a picture, but the Fall mural had a few devil characters drawn on them. It was clearly drawn to reference Halloween, but that doesn’t alleviate the creepiness. Eric and I returned to the bike and continued our way up to the water tower. When we got to the top, he dismounted, and I shimmied over to a hay bale to prop the bike up.

    Put yourself in my shoes for a moment. You are in rural Kansas, which you are completely new to. You are miles away from anything resembling a town. The only way to access where you are is dirt roads. You know there are all sorts of wild animals out here. Are the shoes on? Do they fit? Good, let's continue.

    I leaned the bike up against the bale and looked up. I saw this.

    [​IMG]

    See it? For those who don’t, I’ll zoom in.

    [​IMG]

    Doesn’t that spec look like a black wolf with two ears sticking up? Because that’s right where my mind went! I froze in place, my hand on the ignition of the bike. I waited for the black shape to make move. It sat motionless. I relaxed slightly. “Eric!” I called out.

    “Yeah?”

    “You see that?”

    Eric walked joined me and looked in the direction I was pointing. “Yeah wait, I do!” he said. “What is that, a plow?”

    “I don’t know,” I said. “I thought it was a wolf.”

    If it was a wolf, it was only interested in loafing. We fully relaxed and walked over to the water tower to take pictures some pics.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    We made our way back to the KTM, making sure that the wolf was still in place, before riding back down into camp. We made a pitstop over at the barn and flagged down a lady who was walking her dog. We, well…I, asked her to take a picture of us cramped up on this poor 350.

    [​IMG]

    I’m sorry, this is hilarious.

    After thanking the nice lady who took the picture, Eric and I rode around the back of the property. We ripped on a mini beach that was nestled up against the back-forty pond before riding back to the Main Hall. Scott from Forgotten 22 was firing up the grill, and we chatted with him for a bit. Lee was in and out of the main area for the next hour. He seemed to be running back and forth across the entire property. An event like this has a lot of moving parts, for it to be going as smooth as it was meant that the organizers were working at maximum efficiency. I was very thankful for their effort.

    Eric and I soon received word that our things were being retrieved, but it was going to take a bit of time because:

    1) Lee’s house was far from camp

    2) The truck had to make a few stops along the way.

    It wasn’t the end of the world. The only thing I really wanted from the bag was my sneakers as my riding boots were getting uncomfortable.

    Scott finished up the first round of food, so Eric and I loaded up on some hot dogs and hamburgers before collapsing on a couch in the hall. For a couch that has presumably been in that building for a long time, it was pretty comfy. The next two hours would be spent with that couch as a basecamp. Folks began to drift in, getting their dinner before mingling in the main hall. A small group formed around the couch and soon we were chatting up a storm with new friends.

    [​IMG]

    On a few tables nearby were items set to be auctioned off. The prizes were a mixed assortment of goods. I’d say about 75% were motorcycle related. There were boots, gloves, a clutch cable repair kit, and a travel-size tire-inflator. There were also t-shirts, camping equipment, and some local home-made soap. I did the smart thing and put in for the inflator and the soap. “Why the soap?” someone asked.

    “Simple, I’ll give it to my mom for Mother’s Day, and then I’ll have free reign to do whatever for a few months.”

    “How low are your parents’ expectations that soap can buy them off?”

    “Low enough for it to work.”

    The soap really would make a good gift, I wasn’t joking about that bit. On top of it being pretty soap, the bag’s aroma could be picked up from six feet away and it smelled good. As dinner began to die down, the sun began to set.

    [​IMG]

    Beer started flowing, guitars started strumming, and the campground was buzzing. From what I heard, there was originally going to be a full band playing. However, the lead singer had an emergency and pulled out last minute. The replacement was one guy with a guitar, and he couldn’t have been better. He knew a wide selection of covers and had boundless energy.

    [​IMG]

    The blur in this picture wasn't a stylistic choice. It was the best I could get with a broken camera and mixed lighting.

    During the set, Lee would occasionally take control of the mic and decide the raffles. I peeked at the ticket collection for the soap. When I put my stub in, I was the sole entrant. In the hours since, I had accrued some competition. Maybe it was time to consider a plan B for my Mother’s Day gift.

    Around 8:00 pm, Eric and I were alerted that our belongings had arrived at camp. While it was nice to have the peace of mind that fresh underwear brings, it soon became apparent that we could not just pop over to the trailer on the KTM. There was no way we carry the gear and contort into a riding position that would work. We both knew what we had to do. And thus began a quarter-mile riding boot waddle through the darkness. We got to a point where the sounds of the soiree at the Main Hall could no longer reach us. We were in complete isolation. Would Eric and I survive this walk or would this be the start of a horro movie?

    We arrived at the barn without incident. After depositing our gear, we changed into street clothes and spent the next few minutes setting up the sleeping arrangements. I then emptied out my backpack to fill with water bottles from the Main Hall. I was outside the barn to use a nearby port-o-potty when I heard someone talking. I froze in place, trying to figure out the source of the sound. Giant pack rats can’t talk, right? Or maybe it was the wolf/plow/unknown object. Suddenly the voice shifted, and it started singing. I breathed a sigh of relief. It was just music echoing from the Main Hall.

    Eric and I made our way back to the Main Hall. Things begun to wind down in our absence. People were starting to make their way to their own campsites. When we made it to the hall, I saw the soap was gone. Crud. Reeling in defeat, I looked over and saw the basket sitting on the couch with the winning ticket on top of it. Happy Mother’s Day, mom!

    [​IMG]

    Eric and I loaded up on water before heading back to the trailer. I drove the KTM, Eric carried the soap on foot. I dropped the KTM off, then rejoined him on foot to help escort this valuable package.

    With the soap secured, a few of us went up on the hill to check out the Milky Way. We could see a slight haze of light from Wichita off on the horizon. A plane went overhead, and someone joked that it was the Sheriff’s Department looking at us with FLIR. I honestly thought they were serious. Do you blame me? That seems fairly plausible, right?

    Then the conversation shifted to all things creepy, and I relayed the story of the wolf. “What if you come back in the morning and it is gone?” someone asked.

    “STOP!” I yelled, glancing over my shoulder into the dark. Thankfully, the wolf didn’t hear us. Or maybe it did and just didn't care.

    The temperature started to drop, so we called it a night and head back to the trailer. Eric and I hunkered down in our bunks, wrapped up in our sleeping bags, and turned out the lights for a well deserved night's rest.

    Sorry this is taking so long to roll out. I've been busy this weekend, and tomorrow (Sunday the 16th) has me completely indisposed. I'll do my best to release Parts IV and V in a timely manner. ~RacingBlue
    #10
    popscycle, dano619, Ks-Rydr and 2 others like this.
  11. ajayhawkfan

    ajayhawkfan Rock Chalk

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2006
    Oddometer:
    6,397
    Location:
    Kansas City, MO
    Lee, thanks for sending me this link.

    Nice report. I have ridden the Flint Hill often enough to be able to pinpoint every picture.
    #11
    RacingBlue and overlander like this.
  12. RacingBlue

    RacingBlue Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2019
    Oddometer:
    159
    Location:
    Austin, Texas
    Part IV: Loyal Dogs and Beaumont-Style Breakfasts

    The original plan for the next morning was to ride our bikes into Beaumont and grab breakfast at the eponymous hotel. With the AJP’s precarious situation, we were a bit worried about riding it into town in case the problem got worse. And while doubling up on the KTM worked for camp, if we took it out on the main road we’d probably die or get pulled over. At least it looked like a it was going to be a beautiful day.

    [​IMG]

    Some friends stopped by the barn and we struck a deal. We would lend them the KTM to have some fun in the dirt while they would give us their Suburban to drive into town. Before this deal was made, I had put on my riding gear expecting to ride into town. It certainly wasn’t my Sunday best, but I was too lazy to take it off. Eric and I hopped in the truck and started to head off. Unfortunately, the owner’s dog thought he was being abandoned, and chased the truck all the way through camp. When we arrived at the outskirts, Eric hammered it and we shook the dog. I relaxed into the leather seats. Both of us were sore from yesterday’s riding. A nice drive into town was exactly what the doctor ordered.

    [​IMG]

    Without warning, Eric slammed on the brakes. I shot up, on high alert. He tapped my shoulder and pointed to the rear-view mirror. I noticed a little brown spec bobbing up the road, heading in our direction. I turned around for a better look. It was the dog. Both of us realized that this dog would follow us all the way into Beaumont, there was only one correct course of action. Eric got out of the truck and opened the rear passenger door. As if on queue, the dog jumped in and hunkered down in the doggy bed, acting like he hadn’t just chased the wrong person for a mile.

    [​IMG]

    We drove back to camp and returned the dog to it's owner. Once we had confirmation that it was secure, we headed back out.

    We plodded our way into Beaumont. The Suburban dominated the rough backroads, only really giving us a scare during a water crossing through a deep ditch. Other than that, there were no issues. We passed by a few GS riders heading into the backcountry. Neither of us recognized any of them, I’m still not sure whether they were part of the event or if it was just a coincidence.

    When we arrived, we saw a group of cruisers parked, as well as two dual sports. This town was obviously a destination, the question was why? According to Wikipedia, around 50 people live there. It’s the dictionary definition of a one-horse town. But it had character, and the hotel showed that.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    We met up with Lee inside and sat down to order some breakfast. The inside of this place felt like a portal to decades previous. The walls were adorned with airplane memorabilia, as well as some splashes of local color. It had that feel of small-town comfort, and I could tell the food was going to be delicious.

    [​IMG]

    I ordered a full order of French toast with hash browns on the side. The portions were enormous, and by the time I finished eating I felt like I was going to explode. So much for my beach body. The total for this meal? Six dollars. I can confidently say I’ve spent double the money for less food. I made sure to reflect that in my tip.

    With breakfast finished, Lee went on back to camp while Eric and I wandered town for a bit. It turns out that Beaumont is a major attraction for pilots. Poor weather prevented us from seeing this, but it isn’t uncommon for airplanes to land in a nearby airstrip, then taxi over to the hotel for breakfast. The prospect of seeing this peculiar sight has given me a great reason to return.

    [​IMG]

    With Fleetwood Mac’s “Gypsy” coming through the radio, Eric and I made our way back into the camp. Our next order of business was to make sure the AJP was in good shape, pack up our stuff, and drive home. But as we got closer to camp, the morning's beautiful weather began to cede to dark clouds. By the time we were at the gates of camp, we saw the haze of a downpour in the distance.

    [​IMG]

    I was praying the skies would spare us on the drive home.
    #12
    popscycle likes this.
  13. RacingBlue

    RacingBlue Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2019
    Oddometer:
    159
    Location:
    Austin, Texas
    Next time I'm through, I'll have to try and throw you a curveball!
    #13
  14. RacingBlue

    RacingBlue Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2019
    Oddometer:
    159
    Location:
    Austin, Texas
    Part V: Speed Safely

    The remaining camp inhabitants were a collection of organizers, straggling campers, and the Dynamic Duo. Eric and I packed our things out of the trailer. I made sure to carefully wrap the soap in my duffel bag, I didn’t want this prized posession to get damaged during transit. We threw our bags on the truck that was heading into town. With that taken care of, we gave the AJP a quick flush of the clutch line. The tension returned to normal, and the bike was back in tip top shape. While Eric was putting on his riding gear, I took the KTM up the hill to text my folks that I was hitting the road. On the way back down, I discovered that the “wolf” hadn’t moved from its spot, as it was just a log. The truth is often disappointing.

    Once it was time to go, I mounted the AJP and headed up to the main hall.

    [​IMG]

    The KTM was on that side of the property as well, so Eric hitched a ride on Lee’s tractor. When we reconvened, the sky was showing no promise of safety.

    [​IMG]

    We locked up the main hall and said goodbye to the locals before saddling up and heading out.

    [​IMG]

    Lee’s plan for the ride home was to head south, then west through the backcountry. It would go a little out of the way, but he promised it was scenic. Even with the threat of rain, I couldn’t say no to more exploring. We set off, barreling straight toward threatening skies.

    [​IMG]

    Lee took lead, I hunkered down in the middle, and Eric was the caboose. Lee was leading us at an upbeat pace, but you won't find me complaining. Eric was looking a lot more comfortable saddled up on the KTM as well.

    The conditions of the roads were similar to the previous day's. They were packed dirt with a few sections of heavy gravel. If the rain came, however, all of that would go down the toilet. At least the AJP was running great! The clutch held firm, and I made sure to keep my finger away from that pesky nozzle. Now that I was used to the bike’s weight and seating position, I was having a lot of fun blasting through the back roads.

    At a T-Junction, Lee stopped and pointed to the horizon. I looked ahead and saw a wind farm in the distance. “See that wind farm?” Lee said, “we’re gonna get a lot closer to it.”

    [​IMG]

    I smiled under my helmet. Eric and I motioned for him to lead the way. Lee led us south, zig zagging through twists and turns. Eventually, we found ourselves right under the spinning turbines.

    [​IMG]

    I tried to take a picture with my phone, but the focusing problem had only gotten worse. Instead of holding off the shaking for a few moments, it would go haywire as soon as the app opened. I settled for pointing my GoPro at the target and just praying the shot came out well.

    When we left the windfarm, the sky was still dark. As we got farther along, it became apparent that the weather was merely posturing. I had not seen a drop of rain since we left the camp. When we entered Latham, the sky seemed to be a shade lighter.

    [​IMG]

    I really had no idea where we were going. I thought that Lee was following one of the other Gravel Days routes. That suspicion was disconfirmed fifteen minutes into the day. At this point, I had given up looking at my GPS. We left Latham, continuing west on a fun, windy road before pulling off onto a double-track ranch road. The road snaked down a hill, into a grove of trees. We entered the grove and found ourselves greeted by this:

    [​IMG]

    Lee blasted through the water crossing. I sat on the other side, motioning for Eric to pull up next to me. “Remember your training,” I said.

    “Pick a line and don’t stop?”

    “Yep, that’s it.”

    I dropped in and crossed the stream. It was no trouble for the AJP. I turned around and watched Eric do the same, powering through the water and up the other side. When I left Eric on the bank, he was but a learner, now he was a master! We continued through the ranch roads, passing the herds and dodging the bovine landmines they left behind.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    We encountered a fork in the road and decided to go right. That choice led us right into someone’s backyard. We turned around, went back to the fork, and realized left was the way to go. Then we encountered another fork in the road. Clearly left was the superior choice, so we followed that direction down a narrow road surrounded by fences. At the end was a gate.

    [​IMG]

    The one thing that I hadn’t mastered on the AJP was a quick turnaround. I did a six-thousand-point turn, holding up all progress in the free world before finally joining the others at the second split. Eventually, we found ourselves back on asphalt.

    [​IMG]

    We bounced between tarmac and gravel all the way into Augusta. We did see some interesting sights on the way. Well, some of us did. Eric and Lee saw an elk, I missed it. We were also passed by a truck on the other side that was driven by what appeared to be a middle-school aged girl. She was handling herself well, so I’m not going to complain. She was a better driver than half of the adults I see. The closer we got to Augusta, the more the sky cheered up. By the time we got into town, it was sunny.

    We stopped at a car wash and hosed down the bikes.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Clean as a whistle! We went to the gas station we started the journey at and filled up. Then, we saddled up and got on the road one last time.

    [​IMG]

    We arrived back at Lee’s triumphantly. I got enough ammo for what I hoped was going to be a good ride report, Eric honed his dirt riding skills, and Lee had put on one incredible weekend of riding. We spent the next few hours relaxing and freshening up, then celebrated at a nearby Mexican restaurant. We ordered a pitcher of frozen mango margaritas, which were probably too delicious.

    [​IMG]

    Lee showed us some of the sights to see around town. We capped off the night by watching the documentary “Dust to Glory”, a riveting piece on the Baja 1000. If nothing else, it got my gears turning about heading down that way, hopefully soon. Eric will certainly be there in October, racing in the NORRA Baja 1000 with a home built, LS powered Mitsubishi Delica. Lee is building the suspension for it, and it will be completed during the summer. If you want to follow the build, Eric’s Instagram is delicaperformance.

    As a parting gift, Lee gave us both copies of Lee Iaccoca’s autobiography. He inscribed each one with a note, which was a nice touch. I had finished Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas on the plane ride down, so I took this as a sign that it should be my next book. I'm currently three chapters in and I'm hooked.
    #14
    popscycle likes this.
  15. RacingBlue

    RacingBlue Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2019
    Oddometer:
    159
    Location:
    Austin, Texas
    Epilogue

    On Monday I flew home, taking with me a weekend of great memories and some homemade soap (my mom ended up loving the gift). It took me about a week to sit down and write this thing, and I hope I did the event justice. The riding was grea and the campground atmosphere recaptured the joy lost from the past year. There may or may not be an autumn ride in the works. If there is, I’ll be living in Texas by then and you can bet that I’ll be up there with the WR250r that could. If there isn’t, then I guess you’ll have to catch me in the springtime!

    So, what did you think of Kansas?

    I was impressed. It had all the things I liked about Eastern Oklahoma, but didn't disappear as soon as it began. The Flint Hills were a blast to ride through, and I know there are a ton of things I missed, mostly the wildlife. I’ve been told that north of Cassoday, there is a bison herd that calls a preserve home. Next year I’ll go check that out. That isn't to say I didn't see any wildlife, I got to see a scissor-tailed flycatcher! How many of you can say that?

    What about the AJP?

    Again, I was impressed. The AJP was none of the things I feared. It wasn’t heavy, it wasn’t mind-numbingly quirky, and it was comfortable. The performance on the dirt really couldn’t have been any better. I would love to take it through some more rigorous terrain to see how it handles then, but for the average rider the bike will suit just fine. If I were currently in the market for an adventure bike, I would seriously consider buying one.

    Where to next?

    Texas, at some point this summer I hope. I’ll start a new job soon and when they transition back to in person, I’ll make my way down. August is probably the most realistic timeline. I have no idea if I’ll have time for another big ride this year, but I’ll be back at some point, don’t you worry. I bought a nice point and shoot camera too, so hopefully the quality of pictures will go up and I will spare my phone from breaking. I keep telling myself the next big trip will be Alaska, but with the border closed, who really knows? Maybe I'll take a weekend jaunt to some obscure corner of the country in the next few months. I guess we'll have to wait and see.

    Until then, take care of yourself. I’ll see you on the other side.
    #15
    popscycle and sages like this.
  16. dano619

    dano619 Long timer Supporter

    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2011
    Oddometer:
    1,364
    Location:
    sunny san diego
    Great report, narrative and pics.....Thank You!!
    #16
    RacingBlue likes this.
  17. overlander

    overlander Gravel Travel Tours Supporter

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2003
    Oddometer:
    1,237
    Location:
    Wicheetaw, KS but longing for Texas
    Such a great job covering the event, Alex! There is SO much to putting on an event such as this. Pete and Dan were the real hero's in this and deserve the real credit. Getting more and New people into this sport has been my life's ambition and having your skills as a scribe certainly didn't let me down that's for sure! I'm SO glad everyone seemed to have a good time! There's much more to come so... SPEED SAFELY!
    #17
    RacingBlue likes this.
  18. SlyByrd

    SlyByrd Siksika

    Joined:
    Dec 20, 2010
    Oddometer:
    20
    Location:
    Springfield, Mo
    Bro …. is that a Tri-Pod mounted TOW on the dash of Eric's truck? Niiiiice !
    #18
    RacingBlue likes this.
  19. ajayhawkfan

    ajayhawkfan Rock Chalk

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2006
    Oddometer:
    6,397
    Location:
    Kansas City, MO
    Nice report. It was like I was there and I was. I won the air compressor.

    When you get to Texas drop me a note. I have a 5 day Hill Country loop that would be a hoot on a WR.
    #19
    RacingBlue likes this.
  20. RacingBlue

    RacingBlue Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2019
    Oddometer:
    159
    Location:
    Austin, Texas
    Thank you, Lee! As for the more to come...count me in.
    #20